What stops you from looking at the Baby in the manger?

by Heather B. Iseminger, Guest Columnist |

ORLANDO (Christian Examiner) -- Our Ella was four when we bought her the nativity. Painted genuine with muted colors. Rugged, durable, real—beautiful. It wasn't a cartooned toy, and it was perfect for her. Perfect for her tiny hands to carry the baby Jesus, to travel Mary and Joseph to the stable, to journey shepherds and Wisemen to the manger.

I love this sweet nativity, held so much with little-girl hands the faces are worn away. Crowns and angel wings have been chipped and glued, chipped and glued. And Baby Jesus continues to sleep in peace in His momma's arms. Even now, my Ella-girl takes the set to her room placing figures just so for the Season.

Her nativity.

Worn ragged with love.


And the nativity in my heart? Sometimes its worn ragged with this season.

Hustle and bustle. To and fro. The balancing act of the holidays brings a dance of parties and work. Late nights again and again leave children grumpy—parents grumpier. Laughing and smiling when it's easy to purchase the perfect present. Whining and sighing when it's not.

And I struggle to teach my children generosity in a season that spends. When gift getting can be a blessing but in the gift giving you become the blessing. Wanting to ignore the Pinterest perfect but succumbing to those late nights scrolling and wishing for more money, more time, more. I'm consumed.

Then sometimes we can't unclothe ourselves from pain and sorrow to put Christmas on. Our skin pulls heavy with loss—suffering the season without ones we love dear. Tears don't stop just because Rudolph has a red nose or Frosty's a jolly happy soul.


Sometimes our nativity view is blurred with the salty wet in the corners of our eyes.


And sometimes it's the ceaselessness. The never stopping. The never breathing. The never slowing. A week into December and tiredness is already stomping through my soul. The nativity, the birth, the origin of the Christ-child becomes a faded echo in a Christmas of coming and going and doing.

When what I crave? What I yearn for? Is just the being.

To sit next to an ornamented tree, glowing with soft lights. To breathe in the candle fragrance. To hear the carols, old and new, allowing them to float through my heart and land in my soul. To feel the Advent deep.

Because the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes is coming—has come. The world, round and pregnant, anticipates the celebration of His gift.

Christmas is only ever clear when the nativity is rubbed clean through with our focus, with our world-weary hands. Because sometimes you just need to hold the baby Jesus in your hands to remember He resides in your heart.

Christmas is when we see His Nativity for what it really means. It reminds us to take the Christ-child in our hands. To feel real the significance of the moment, the weight.

The twinkling moment a tiny babe with ten fingers and ten toes became Emanuel.


God. With. Us.

So this December day, when your Advent is rushed and your Christmas is tired. When your manger has faces rubbed away by little hands and splintered wood builds a stable. When you can't seem to find the beauty and wonder of the season.

Begin with the Nativity—the beginning, the origin, the birth.

It is in the birth we find life. The first breath of the Christ-child breathed life into the souls of humanity. Only the worn out feeding-box, with it's wrapped-in-swaddling-clothes gift, can save our worn out Christmas.

Can you hear the cries of the infant piercing the dark? Can you hear the soft comfort of a new momma whispering in a King-babe's ear? We don't have to look hard.

Christmas is in a manger.

Heather B. Iseminger, a high school English teacher and blogger at PetalsofJoy.org, lives with her husband of 16 years and two children in Central Florida, where they actively attend First Baptist Church in Eustis.